So…I may have mentioned my woes with digital reading a time or two before. Here’s a brief list of my problems with ebooks in general, and a few issues which are relevant to Sony Readers in Switzerland.
My Principal Problems with Ebooks:
Digital Rights Management (DRM) - I resent the efforts of the publishing industry to convince me that I’m not buying a book, I’m buying the right to read content for an unspecified amount of time. They’re trying to redefine a product they’ve been selling for centuries – to their own advantage. Suddenly, readers are being told they do not have a right to own a book, to swap it with friends, to sell it to a used bookstore, to keep it and pass it down the generations. As a consumer, I don’t want to be inconvenienced by choosing digital over print. I should be able to read a book for as long as I wish and transfer it onto any number of devices. Given that I cannot sell or swap the book, I should pay a lot less than for an ebook in order to compensate me for the freedoms I lose by choosing digital over print.
Price – The price of digital reading devices and ebooks is a definite deterrent. The current price for a Sony Reader PRS-505 in Switzerland is 379 CHF. It used to be 449 CHF but they were forced to slash the price due to poor sales. The average cost of an ebook is 15 CHF. In their wisdom, Sony made the devices available in Switzerland language-specific, so I wouldn’t even be able to read English books on it. I currently pay the equivalent of 7 CHF for a mass market paperback at Amazon Germany. Go figure. My annual book-buying budget is around 800 CHF. A Sony Reader would eat up almost half that amount. And then there’s the inflated price of the ebooks themselves. As I can neither swap nor sell my ebooks, I can’t even recoup some of the money spent on the Reader. Given that technology evolves quickly, and modern devices are not made to last more than a couple of years, I’d be obliged to upgrade to a new model within a couple of years. And so the whole process would begin again.
Geographical Restrictions - Let’s say I import a Sony Reader from an English speaking country. Once I’ve dealt with import tax and the fact that I have no come-back should the device prove to be faulty, I can’t even buy all the books I’d want to read on it anyway. For their own reasons, many publishers have imposed geographical restrictions on ebooks which makes it difficult for a non-US resident to buy them. Print versions of the same books are easy to come by via Amazon, The Book Depository, and brick-and-mortar bookstores.
The Sony Reader – Sony are fuckwits. Let’s just get that out there. There’s a reason their launch of the Sony Reader PRS- 505 has not been a roaring success in Germany and Switzerland. It’s over-priced, language-specific, and there are a limited number of ebooks available in German and French. I have no idea how it’s done in Germany, but in Switzerland, the Reader is sold exclusively through bookstores. As my husband so rightly pointed out, why would I go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore to buy an ebook, or a device on which to read them? The salespeople have no clue about the technology behind the device. After reading up on them online, I knew more about the Sony Reader than the people in the bookstores in our town. One bookseller I spoke to had no idea what epub format is. I kid you not. And this person is supposed to inform customers about the product. A definite head-desk moment. The new touch screen version is also due to launch here soon. But guess what? In the place of a display model for customers to try out, there’s a cardboard box. Way to go, Sony.
Dodgy Digital Publishers – Sorry if this offends, but seriously, I’ve heard more negative stories about epublishers than positive. This might not be fair and I’m sure there are legitimate ones out there. But every time scandal hits an epublisher – be it ripping off authors, or failing to open after bombarding the internet with advance PR crap and non-answers about royalties – my scepticism raises yet another notch.
To conclude: I would love to go digital. Truly. I’d save so much space. Under the current conditions, however, I’m at a loss to see why I should – or why anyone would want to.
What say you?